Catchment management: where the river meets the sea

Time Allocation: 40 minutes*

Activity Level: Moderate


This activity investigates the journey of waste into our waterways and eventually the sea. Students explore how waste can impact our wetland and marine environments.

*Time allocation includes 20 minutes of adult preparation.


  • Printable activity sheet
  • Clipboard
  • Pencils
  • Waterproof container
  • Small jug
  • 3L water
  • 6x plastic rulers
  • 6x 1L clear containers
  • Large wooden or plastic spoon or tongs
  • Waste resources:
    1. Outside drain (100g soil/dirt or clay , 100g leaves, twigs or sticks, plastic )
    2. Kitchen Sink (100ml of vegetable oil, 100g Organic food scraps)
    3. Kitchen Sink (20ml detergent)
    4. Toilet (4 squares of toilet paper)
    5. Toilet (2 x tissues)
    6. Toilet (2 x wet wipes)
  • Instructions

    STEP 1:

    The journey so far

    As a class, discuss the impact of the local land uses you identified in the water sustainability activity – specifically around waste.

    Does urban, industrial and stormwater waste generated in your local area have any downstream impacts?

    STEP 2:

    Experiment: sink, float or dissolve

    Let’s test a few common materials that end up in our stormwater and wastewater systems:

    Fill 6 x 1L clear containers with 500ml of water. Follow the instructions in the activity sheet and add the materials to the containers.

    Stir each container with the plastic ruler; observe and record the changes in the activity observation sheet.

    STEP 3:

    Were you surprised by the results of the experiment?

    Does this change your attitude to waste in our waterways and their downstream impacts?

    STEP 4:

    What now?

    Use all the knowledge gained from the Catchment Management activities to discuss what you can do to reduce your water consumption and reduce the amount of waste entering out wastewater and stormwater systems.

    Extension Activity

    Monitor the toilet paper, tissue and wet wipes to see how long it takes them to break down in water. Check on your experiment each day over the next 4 weeks to see and record if they have broken down.

    Now that you understand more about your local catchment, how can you share your discoveries to motivate others? Devise an onsite project to gather support and increase awareness with your peers and the community.